6+ Crucial Reasons to Serve Others
One of the most rewarding and satisfying moments of my life came in the wake of service rendered. I’ll get to the details of that moment shortly, but first here are the events that led up to it. There was a family who had moved into our neighborhood in the spring of 2013. It was a family of four with two young children. The father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and they were struggling financially to keep up with the payments for his treatments. We were made aware of their situation by the bishop of our church. My wife and I soon after began to befriend that family, and from them we gained some additional insight into the challenges they were facing.
With permission from that family, my wife and I (with the help of a few others) arranged to have a benefit yard sale to help raise some money for them. They had quite a few items they wanted to sell, but they did not have the physical ability to carry out the yard sale for themselves. We told them that we would take care of all of the physical labor and advertising for them if they would just help us to know how much they wanted to sell their items for. They happily agreed to that deal, but we didn’t want that to be the extent of the service provided. We knew we could do more for them.
We soon after decided that we would ask people in our neighborhood if they had any items that they were willing to donate to the cause, with the money from the sale of those items also going to the family. We were hoping for maybe a couple of dozen donated items. We were blown away by the flood of donations that came in as a result. It wasn’t long before nearly our entire garage was full of donated items. The response was simply overwhelming, and we were so grateful for the kind-heartedness of all who were willing to aid that family in need. It was also decided that we would carry out a corresponding bake sale to go along with the yard sale. So with that plan of attack in place, we began to make our final preparations.
The yard sale and the bake sale were both very successful, with some people donating money to the family without even buying anything from the sale. Although the amount of money we collected was not overly substantial, it was enough to get the father down to San Diego for a surgical procedure he had been waiting to have due to lack of funds. They had been trying to save money to make that happen for many months, but other costs of living kept getting in the way. The family was thrilled that we were able to help provide the needed funds, and they expressed their appreciation repeatedly in the weeks that followed.
It was an incredibly humbling and fulfilling experience, but handing them all of the money at the end of that day wasn’t the most rewarding part. That moment came over a year later, after that family had moved out of our neighborhood. My wife and I were shopping at a local grocery store when suddenly I heard my name called. I looked up and it was that man; that father and husband for whom the service was rendered two summers prior. He had a huge smile on his face. I immediately noticed that he was looking fairly strong and healthy compared to when I had last seen him, and I was very happy to see that. I quickly asked him how he and his family were doing. To be honest, I had almost forgotten that we had done the yard sale and bake sale for them. That was the last thing on my mind.
However, it wasn’t the last thing on his mind, and that became apparent when he avoided my question altogether and immediately went on to thank me again for what we had done for him and his family. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he told me that we have no idea how much it all meant to them, and how it touched their lives deeply. He couldn’t believe the love and support his family received and felt at such a trying time in their lives. It wasn’t long before tears began making an appearance in my eyes as well. They were tears of joy and gratitude for having had the blessed opportunity to serve a wonderful family in need. As our conversation concluded we shared a brief embrace and parted ways. Words cannot even express the intense warmth that filled my soul at that moment. It truly was one of the most rewarding and satisfying moments of my life.
Service is one of the key ingredients to a happy, productive life. Opportunities to serve others are abundant and ever-present. We cannot afford to miss these opportunities for the sake of our personal growth and development, and even more so for the sake of those who stand in need of our service. For this reason, I want to briefly touch upon 6 important reasons that we should all actively strive to serve others:
- Help Others (Duh)
This is the obvious reason for service, and likely the most important as well. We can help do for others what they are incapable of doing for themselves. Or even if they are capable, we can help make their lives a little easier and a little less stressful just by lending our helping hands. There will be some people who will not want our assistance, and we shouldn’t try to force the issue. But it never hurts to ask someone if they stand in need of help. And sometimes, when an appropriate situation calls for it, we can even surprise others with our service without asking for their permission. However we go about it, we can be a blessing in the lives of others in helping to lighten or eliminate some of their burdens.
- Become More Selfless
It’s a natural human tendency to take care of ourselves first and to give our own needs highest priority (especially prior to having children). In truth, it is very important for us to do so at times. However, that doesn’t mean that we should EVER disregard the needs of others. That’s when we become selfish; when we fail to recognize and tend to the needs of other people, especially those we care about the most. One way we can keep ourselves from becoming selfish (or help remove selfishness from our lives) is to continually immerse ourselves in the service of others. This allows us to look outwardly sometimes instead of inwardly all of the time, and that can prove to be a very healthy and beneficial routine. Serving others also provides us with some relief from our own stresses and burdens as we focus on a cause that is bigger than ourselves.
- Develop Talents & Gifts
Providing service also presents us with a unique opportunity to enhance our own capabilities. I certainly believe that it takes hard work to develop our own individual talents, but I also believe we are all born with inherent gifts that give us the ability to excel in certain talents over others. The crazy thing is that many of us don’t even recognize many of the talents (or potential talents) that we have (or could have). Serving others helps to uncover those hidden talents by pushing our God-given gifts into action. Perhaps we will not know that we are naturally skilled at organizing clutter until we help someone clean their garage or load a moving truck. Perhaps we will not know that we are home improvement gurus until we help a neighbor fix their broken fence or a hole in their living room wall. Just as we can discover new talents in the service of others, we can also further develop our existing (known) talents just the same. We all know what we’re good at, so let’s put those talents to use for the help and benefit of others.
- Meet New People
Many service opportunities call for the help of a group of people, many of whom we may not know. Service provides a powerful bonding experience for all involved, where unity and purpose dominate any other external elements. This provides a wonderful environment to cultivate relationships. Whether it is someone we have never met, or whether it is someone we have known for many years, the positive experiences associated with service can elevate any relationship. We may learn something new from someone, we may hear fascinating stories of life experience, and we may even initiate a lasting friendship with someone we meet with whom we share much in common.
- Set an Example
Although we should never render service for others solely for the sake of being seen doing so (to make ourselves look good), it can have a positive effect on those who witness our kind-hearted efforts. The spirit of service can be contagious. Idle bystanders may become actively engaged in the good and serviceable cause along with us, and that is a result that benefits all involved. The example of providing service becomes even more important when raising children. Parents (and adults in general) have the opportunity to demonstrate to young children the vast importance of lending our time, energy and talents to help others who stand in need of our assistance. They will be able to feel and recognize the value of their positive impact, and that’s a profoundly wonderful and memorable feeling that they can only get from experiencing service for themselves.
- Personal Satisfaction
This one may sound selfish, but it’s really not. We all want to feel good about ourselves, and life is simply better when we do. Performing service has an extraordinary ability to raise our own levels of self-confidence and personal fulfillment, which in turn increases our happiness. Personal satisfaction may really be more of a favorable by-product of service rather than a motivating reason for it. Nevertheless, we can rest assured that we will usually leave a service project much happier and more fulfilled than we were before the act of service took place.
I have a few more personal reasons for service that I would like to share, and to me they are of great importance. What are those motivating reasons, you ask? I have a desire to serve others because God has asked me to, and because Jesus Christ set the perfect example of service throughout his life for us to follow. Whether you regard the Book of Mormon as a sacred and inspired revelatory work (as I do), or whether you view the Book of Mormon as a work of literary fiction, there is a powerful lesson to be learned from one of my favorite characters in that book named King Benjamin. He was a prophet and king who led his people with humility and by example. In Mosiah 2: 16-17 we read these words he spoke to his people: “Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Service provides us all with glorious opportunities to touch lives and extend joy and relief to others. It may not always be extremely fun, and it may not always be something we look forward to with every ounce of our enthusiasm, but it is always rewarding. Whether it is moving furniture, repairing an appliance, cooking a meal, or just lending a listening ear, there are so many different ways we can serve others. May we always be on the lookout for those blessed opportunities to render service. And who knows? Maybe one day we will also stand in need of service ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, it will be those same individuals we helped before who will be our much needed helpers when that time comes.
Note to Self: You usually find yourself in a better place (mentally, emotionally and spiritually) when you lose yourself in the service of others.
Proactively Me Challenge # 8 | The Service Challenge:
Perform at least one random (unplanned) act of service for someone in need within the next two weeks. Invite others to join you if additional help is needed.